Friday 22 March 2013

By Any Other Name - An Interview with Julie K. Rose

Julie K.Rose is the author of the semi-biographical novel "Oleanna", a book I recently reviewed and awarded it 4 Crosses (you can find my review here).

Taking time out from her amazingly busy life, she has been interrogated by my castle Inquisitor and been kind enough to provide an insight into how "Oleanna" was conceived and the sheer amount of commitment she has to employ in order to write.  I have to say, I was very impressed!  Anyone who thinks being is a writer should try and keep up with Julie's schedule for a few weeks and then re-consider!

Also, Julie has been kind enough to provide a copy of "Oleanna" as a giveaway prize!  All you need to do is to go to my "Giveaway Page" and leave a comment to enter. Ladies & Gentlemen......may I present Julie K. Rose.......

1 – How were you inspired to write about an ancestor?
I had been struggling with another book that just wasn't going anywhere, when an image came to me of a woman standing on a mountaintop, her long blond hair being whipped by the wind into her face: it was my great-grandfather's sister Oleanna.

Oleanna was inspired by the lives of John and his sisters Elisabeth and Oleanna. It's not a retelling of their lives, but an imagining of what their lives were like, left behind on the farm in rural, rugged western Norway. Three of my four grandparents were Norwegian, so stories about the country and its traditions were part of my life growing up, but I wanted to know more.

2 – What research materials were you left with?  Did you have family members to ask questions of or was it a case of piecing together anecdotal evidence?
Because the story is inspired by my ancestors, and not a re-creation, I really only needed the basics—when they were born, where they lived, when they immigrated. As you might imagine, I'm a bit of a genealogy geek, so I had a lot of that information to hand anyway. My mom and grandmother had told me some stories about the family, but by the time I started writing the book, they had both died, so I couldn't ask them questions, which in fact freed me to write the story the way it needed to be told, I think. In terms of Norwegian history, I'm lucky enough to have a number of art pieces inherited from Norway, including weavings made by Elisabeth and Oleanna, to which I was able to refer. I also visited Norway in 2004 so I got a good sense of the landscape, and of course I did a great deal of research (both old school in the library and online).

3 – Can you tell me about your life as a writer?  How long have you been writing? 
I've been writing for about 11 years now; I started in my early 30s. Because I have a pretty demanding full-time job, I have to consciously carve out time to write (and promote) my books. I generally get up at 4:30 a.m. and drink my coffee, do email and some promotional activities while I'm waking up, and by 5:30 I'm writing. By 7:00 I'm off to work out and start my work day, so I have to be really focused during my writing time; I'm not always successful! I'll spend time on the weekend as well, when I have more time and brain space to dedicate to it. The early mornings are worth it, however; writing fiction feels like coming home. Now if I could only find someone to pay me to read and write full time…

4 – Do you have any favourite authors?  What are your favourite books?
I like and admire so many authors, we could be here all day listing them. I'd say, though, that my favorites are Patrick O'Brian and JRR Tolkien—the Aubrey/Maturin series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are my favorite books. For sentimental reasons, I'd say M.M. Kaye's Trade Winds is a favorite, because it was one of the books that got me really hooked on historical fiction, especially fiction set in unusual locations (in this case, Zanzibar)—and because she was so kind when she replied to my fan letter when I was a teenager.

5 – What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I know it's an old saw, but you have to write what interests you, and write from your heart. Publishing is truly such a crap shoot that your book may never see the light of day, or if it does, it may not find any readers. The process of writing has to mean something to you, and the content must be compelling—especially because you have to live with it for so long (from idea to drafting to editing to publishing to promotion, it can be many, many years).

6 – Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I do! I'm working on a manuscript called DIDO'S CROWN, set in Tunisia, France, and England, primarily in 1935. It's a kind of literary historic thriller, and a bit of a love letter to Indiana Jones (some of my favorite movies growing up). I'm also working on a novel set in California at the turn of the century, but that one's quite embryonic, so I don't think I'll say more than that! I'm also still working on the next draft of the screenplay adaptation of my first novel, The Pilgrim Glass.

7 – Fun Question......which event in history would you most like to be a fly on the wall?
Wow, this is really, really tough. I wish I could get in the TARDIS and travel with the Doctor to any point in time, any time I'd like. If I had to choose, though…I guess it might be the moment someone decided writing something down would be a great way to remember and communicate. Or perhaps the moment that the first printing press actually worked, and the piece of paper, still ink-wet, was lifted and admired in hushed awe (or maybe with raucous whoops?).

8 - Fun Question – Which three historical people would you invite for dinner?
I love this question; my answer changes every few months, so right now I would say John Muir, Thomas Jefferson, and Hildegard von Bingen. I admire them all so much in different ways, and they're all complicated in their own ways. Having lived in California for almost 30 years, Muir is one of my heroes, the patron saint of nature and wild places. I went to grad school at the university Jefferson established in 1819 (University of Virginia), so it's kind of a requirement to choose him. J Seriously though, I've always admired the scope of his interests and curiosity. And Hildegard has always been fascinating to me, both her spirituality and her strength. I would love to sit back and watch them interact with each other.

Thank you so much for such great questions!

Don't forget to visit my Giveaway Page and enter my competition to win your very own copy of "Oleanna"!


  1. Lovely lady - and a super interview! Thanks for sharing Stuart.

  2. I second Helen's comment. Always great to see this author in the spotlight!